The first thing to know about the Aikiou is that it is pronounced “IQ.” The second is that it’s a pretty cool way of providing mental stimulation to your dog at mealtimes, or when giving treats. Manufactured by Aikiou, Inc., the bowl is made of plastic and is shaped like a paw print. It has four double-sided compartments where food can be placed, each with a slider that can be moved over one side to conceal the food. There is also a larger wheel making up the main part of the “paw” that, when turned, exposes only one of six compartments at a time.
I tried the Aikiou this morning for the first time, with my dog Sierra. Sierra is about a year and a half, weighs approximately 40 pounds, and although we don’t know her breed for sure, our best guess is sheltie/husky/GSD. Sierra has been having some gastrointestinal problems lately so I’ve been cooking for her (oops—that was the sound of my mother fainting), which is why I didn’t want to fill the product with kibble as many owners might. Instead, I first placed a slice of banana, which Sierra loves, into one side of each of the double-sided compartments, leaving the food exposed. I also placed a slice in an exposed section of the larger wheel, all to give her the idea of getting food out of this new weird plastic thing. (The manufacturer actually recommends removing all the plastic pieces at first but I couldn’t easily see how they come out—possibly due more to my rotten head cold and befuddled brain than the product design—so I left them in place.) Sierra ate the food from the compartments, although she had a bit of trouble at first since her muzzle wouldn’t fit into the small spaces. Also, the product skidded around some, despite the bowl’s “anti-slip grips”—perhaps my floor wasn’t clean enough; it could happen.
For round two, I put a small bit of banana in one side of each double-sided compartment and covered each with a slider. It took Sierra a little while to get the hang of it, and some of her success was surely due to accidental nudging, but she got there, and the compartments were soon empty. (The bowl, by the way, can be cleaned in the dishwasher or by hand, and the plastic bits do actually come out easily once you bother to read the instructions.)
I should mention at this point that the manufacturer states the Aikiou is designed “for you and your dog to have fun together” and that the dog should not be left unsupervised with the bowl. The latter is probably very good advice, as I could easily imagine my now-passed-on 120-lb. soul dog Mojo easily dismembering the Aikiou in short order. There aren’t any specific instructions given on how to “have fun” with your dog with the product, but as it is intended for the dog to figure things out, I imagine the human’s role is to stand by and lend a hand if necessary at first, and perhaps cheer the dog on. It certainly is fun to watch.
On to Round 3, the real experiment! I filled the each of the compartments with either small pieces of string cheese cut into coins, or 2 pieces of kibble (normally you’d feed larger amounts, but again, Sierra’s got GI problems). I videotaped the result, which you can see here. Sierra did just fine, and the frustration level seemed to be tolerable, as she kept going until she got all the tidbits out. It was great to see her working things out; my husband even interrupted his breakfast to look on, which is something, considering he’s not a morning person and not so much a dog person as I am. Hey, those Aikiou folks really are on to something!
I do wish there were various sizes of the product to accommodate smaller and larger dogs. At 40 pounds Sierra is not huge, yet she had some trouble getting the food out of the small compartments. Granted, if they’d been filled higher she would have had success sooner, but still, it seems the food remaining on the bottom would be a bit of a challenge for larger dogs to get to, depending on their approach. I suppose if they could manage to lick it out rather than trying to stuff their muzzle in as Sierra did they’d be fine.
All in all, I really like the product. It helps dogs to eat more slowly, which is healthier and reduces the chances of bloat. It gives dogs a chance to engage their inclination to forage, which is great for Sierra, a dedicated hunter, in particular. Sure, she also gets morning hikes with my husband in the mountains behind our house, but I can see how those who don’t have that particular opportunity would be even more pleased at this convenient way to offer the benefit of employing their dogs’ natural instincts. The importance of mental stimulation for dogs can’t be overstated, and the Aikiou gives owners one more way to provide that benefit to their dogs. You can find the product here. I’d recommend giving it a try.
Update: I have posted a second video to Youtube, as Sierra’s learning curve was not very steep. She’s gotten the hang of pushing and pulling the sliders, and maneuvering the wheel to expose the food cubicles.